I couldn't believe the number of American Idol votes. The voters couldn't have been just those in their teens and twenties. Perhaps it isn't a coincidence that the votes were being cast as I was flying back from attending the AICPA Spring Council meeting in Salt Lake City.

The overriding theme at the AICPA Spring Council meeting was the next generations of CPAs, and how the four generations in the professional workplace interact. In that regard, this meeting was different than past Council meetings I have attended.

Yes, there were resolutions on administrative matters considered, updates of AICPA activities, and awards given, as in other meetings, as well as a discussion on the critical issues facing the profession with regard to peer review and the introduction of a separate set of standards for financial reporting by private companies. But, unlike past meetings, the most time was spent on the generational issue. There were a number of speeches on the subject, including a keynote by Cam Marston, president of Marston Communications, as well as breakout sessions where Council members discussed the subject.

It was very interesting to watch members' reactions. All readily acknowledged there were substantial differences in the generations, and many indicated they were beginning to understand what they are.

In fact, I heard a few comments to the effect that the individual felt like a light bulb went on. Interestingly, most times it wasn't about understanding the actions and motivations of a colleague, but, a recognition and understanding that their kids aren't the same as they were at that age. Many even admitted they should be dealing with their kids differently.

Overall, the attendees gained a better understanding of the inherently different motivators for the four generations in the workplace. This is valuable lesson. Firms will have to customize employment relations based on these differences. The key will be to do so in an equitable manner, making sure no generation feels slighted or ignored. A rigid set of rules won't work, There needs to be flexibility so each generation can be rewarded in the manner that they most desire, whether it be more days off, increased salary, training, or flextime.

Interestingly, as the four generations (Matures, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and the Millennials) interact, expect some in each generation to pick up a number of the characteristics of the other generation. Maybe that is what explains, in part, the fact that 63 million American Idol votes were cast.

For a snapshot of what makes each generation tick, visit marstoncomm.com.

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